SURPLUS federal property was bought and paid for by U.S. taxpayers, and they should get the full benefit of the property. However, an existing foreign policy program gives first dibs on the best surplus equipment to foreign countries, while cities and states at home go begging.
States shop regularly for federal castoffs, frequently purchasing road equipment and other big-ticket items for less than 10 cents on the dollar. Road graders, fire trucks, barges, cranes -- there is a tremendous list of things that cities, counties and states need but cannot afford to buy new.
Since 1986, the very best of the highly prized material no longer needed by the Defense Department has been offered first to selected foreign countries under a congressionally established Humanitarian Assistance Program: 39 other countries get first refusal; U.S. cities and states must get in line.